Thank you Southwark Mayor Cllr Barrie Hargrove for the 2022 Discretionary Award for Friends of Burgess Park’s “ongoing & successful commitment … thinking of the park’s welfare first and foremost”. Massive thanks to all our volunteers, past, present, & more importantly, future ones. Join us!
so much more than lots of trees
Wild boar, auroch and red deer shaped our ancient woodlands. They grazed on the saplings that sprung up in the clearings caused by falling trees and kept the soil open to the sky. Wildflowers and berries thrived in the sunshine attracting more wildlife. Stone-age hunters found it profitable to hunt where the animals gathered and were able to keep the clearings open using flint axes. Later on, Bronze age people developed the clearings into places to cultivate rough pasture and crops.*
A completely closed canopy is poor in biodiversity as without sunlight, there will be no plants for forage on the woodland floor. The only insects to be found will be those that feed on decaying leaf litter and their predators. The mighty English Oak will not grow here, their seedlings grow best in more open conditions, often under the protection of a Blackberry thicket. ‘The thorn is mother to the Oak.’ When you find an Oak tree in the middle of a wood, it was there first, other trees grew around it.
Throughout the many centuries since, under-woodsmen have harvested the underwood, taking Hazel, Ash and Chestnut to make hurdles, fences, rustic furniture, firewood and charcoal. The standards, Oak and Elm were left to grow on into timber for ship and house building or to become veteran trees. Felling all the underwood may seem like vandalism, but letting the light in regenerates the woodland as the trees quickly re-grow.
The woodland in Burgess Park West is a young Broad Leaf woodland, planted to imitate ancient woodland, but it will be many decades before it develops veteran trees and the complex wildlife that they support. Similarly, with the plants that indicate ancient woodland – Wood anemone, Herb Paris, Twayblade, Purple Orchid, They need deep, moist, leaf mould interlaced with fungal mycelium and soil micro-organisms to grow in.
Sunshine is a vital agent. In a coppiced woodland, sections of the woodland called Coups are cut every 7-12 years in rotation. Under this system, there are always young tree shoots within the reach of grazing animals somewhere in the woods. Other trees and plants are mature enough to produce nuts and berries to feed animals such as dormice. Somewhere in the wood, areas of thick scrub will have sprung up into a site where nightingales can nest. Full exposure to sunlight every decade is enough to sustain bluebells and other woodland flora. In neglected woods, the flora will eventually be shaded out along with all the wildlife it supports.
Coppicing is hard work and under woodsmen a rare breed. In Blean Woods near Canterbury, things are going full circle and European Bison are being re-introduced to look after the woods. Unfortunately, natural habitats are becoming more fragmented by roads and buildings, so it will take a lot of changes to make it possible for native mammals like the hedgehog or the wild boar to return to this bit of London. The plants and trees that have lasted with us into the 21st Century have adapted to our ancient methods of managing the land and to the animals that live on it. But, they can’t keep up with our present rate of change and we run the risk of destroying these beautiful habitats if we don’t understand and fight for what it takes to keep them alive.
* See A Natural History of the Hedgerow by John Wright
Ornithologist Dave Clark recommends keeping a record of the birds in the park and on the lake.
This gives us an indication of the natural health of our precious green urban space and allows us to understand the changes that occur seasonally within nature. The winter profile of the lake is one of gulls, cormorants and wintering ducks seeking, believe it or not, a warmer climate from their usual surrounds.
Being proximate to the Thames and easy for birds to see from the air, the wide vistas of the park provide a backdrop that allows avian incomers to assess the attractiveness of the lake, with food and safety being the prime instinctual drivers. This winter the lake has continued to provide a home, stopover and feeding station to the usual suspects alongside less common and in a Greater London context, rare species.
The star of the show was a White-fronted goose which quite happily fed and swam with the resident Greylag geese population, gracing us with its rare presence for around a week. White fronts, check out the white patch above the beak in the above photo, migrate to Britain during the winter to escape the bitterness of lcelandic and Russian winters with this particular bird being one of the rarer subspecies which arrives from faraway Siberia to land habitually on our coastal and estuarine environments, a rarity indeed.
Usually seen, if at all, on the large expansive London reservoirs the Goldeneye is a distinctive wintering duck from Scandinavia. A beautiful male appeared later in January for three days and was probably the same individual that appeared for the same duration on the lake before last year`s lock down.
Other ducks of note that have also been seen are the subtly plumaged Gadwall and a long standing male Pochard in all its orange-red headed glory.
On our playing fields, parkland and ponds there is always a winter build up of gulls, and on any one day during this winter there have been up to two hundred Black-headed gulls swooping and swimming at the lake. We commonly make the mistake of perceiving them as seabirds when in fact they are coastal birds and with the Thames so close the route to the coast is only 20 to 30 miles away. Along with Common gull, Herring gull and Lesser black-backed gull the lake has also attracted, on occasion, Britain’s largest gull the Great black-backed gull, a serious beast standing at 70 centimetres it is twice the size of the usuals and five times the weight!
Finally in our water bird list is the Mediterranean gull which pops in and out of Burgess Park. As suggested by their name they are used to a warmer environment and although still rare the general increase in abundance of this bird in Kent coastal areas is a sign of our changing climate. Very similar to the Black-headed gull the white wing tips and droopy beak help discriminate between the two species.
A heartwarming effect of the lake’s success is the notable increase in the number of observers who are recording sightings on the various social media platforms. I’m sure the coming seasons will add to our birding pleasure, and whether casual or serious in our intent there is no doubt in these strange times that the lake and the park are important for our well being. Keep birding!
Where to record your bird sightings
London database = GIGL = Greenspace Information for Greater London – collects data on flora and fauna – https://www.gigl.org.uk/
BTO = British Trust for Ornithology – strictly birds – https://www.bto.org/
ebird – U.S. app for birds which we are increasingly using for our water and songbird sightings – https://ebird.org/home
Nature under our noses in Burgess Park
by Simon Saville
Chair of the Surrey & SW London Branch of Butterfly Conservation
I suppose that most people don’t think of butterflies when they think of Burgess Park. But they should! Already this year (by late March) I have seen a Small Tortoiseshell, a Small White, a couple of Commas and a couple of Brimstones.
Over the past few years, I have spotted no fewer than 16 different types of butterfly in the park. On one spectacular sunny July day, I saw more than 160 butterflies of 10 different species, plus a couple of day-flying moths.
Burgess Park has been managed quite sensitively for wildlife, and there are lots of good places for butterflies. Some of them are shown in this map:
1 – Elm trees, supporting some very elusive White-letter Hairstreaks
2 – Nature area, being redeveloped. This could become a nature hotspot in a few years’ time
3 – The big mounds, home to the Common Blue butterfly
4 – By St. George’s Way
5 – Grassy area with brambles
6 – South-facing slope
7 – Wooded area north of the lake
8 – Grassy area by the lake
9 – Grassy area and hedges between Waite St and Oakley Place
10 – Glengall Wharf, start of Surrey Canal Walk
The Comma is a harbinger of spring, often seen in April. They spend the winter hibernating as adults and they reappear as soon as the weather warms up. This one was in the wooded area north of the lake – a favoured spot. The caterpillars used to feed on hops, but now have a taste for nettles and this has helped them increase their range and abundance in recent years.
The Small Tortoiseshell also hibernates as an adult. This one was spotted in the middle of the Park by some brambles in April. The caterpillars feed on nettles, so it’s important that we don’t tidy the nettles away! We used to see a lot more of these butterflies. Nobody really knows why they have crashed in numbers so quickly.
A Speckled Wood in the Glengall Wharf area in April. They like the semi-wooded areas and enjoy dappled sunlight.
A Sitochroa verticalis moth (this has no English name) on one of the big mounds in June when many of the flowers were in bloom. Also around at that time were lots of Burnet Companion and Silver-Y moths. The latter is a migrant that can appear in London in big numbers.
One of many Common Blue butterflies seen on the big mounds in June last year. The caterpillars feed on Bird’s-foot Trefoil which is present here.
The big mounds are often teeming with insect life, a result of the many wild flowers present.
The spectacular Jersey Tiger moth can be seen flying in the Park in July and August. This photo is from Kennington, about a mile away. This used to be restricted to the south coast, but is now spreading rapidly. It can be seen all over south London. Because it is colourful and flies by day, it’s often mistaken for a butterfly.
Elm trees by New Church Road. If you are lucky, you might see pairs of male White-letter Hairstreaks spiralling in mock combat at the top of the canopy.
Butterflies seen in Burgess Park Larval foodplant
Common Blue Birdsfoot Trefoil
Green-veined White Crucifers
Holly Blue Holly (spring), ivy (summer)
Large Skipper Grasses
Large White Brassicas
Meadow Brown Grasses
Orange-tip Garlic Mustard, crucifers
Red Admiral Nettles
Small / Essex Skipper
(not separately recorded) Grasses
Small Tortoiseshell Nettles
Small White Brassicas, crucifers
Speckled Wood Grasses
White-letter Hairstreak Elm
I haven’t seen any Painted Lady, Peacock or Ringlet butterflies in Burgess Park, but I would be surprised if they were not present, as they have been seen at Nunhead Cemetery (3km away). The Painted Lady, which is a migrant species, was also seen at Walworth Garden (1km away). There may be Purple Hairstreaks on the oak trees by Waite Street.
Moths present include: Jersey Tiger, Six Spot Burnet, Burnet Companion, Silver-Y and Sitochroa verticalis.
All this goes to show what a wonderful place Burgess Park is for butterflies. I know that Southwark Council are keen to make it even better.
Butterfly Conservation has started a ‘BIG City Butterflies’ project, supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This aims to get people to engage with the green spaces near them and to discover the wildlife that’s under their noses. We’ll be using Burgess Park as one of our key sites in SW London. It’s early days, but you can read more about Big City Butterflies here.
27 March 2019
A murder of crows
Perhaps, if crows were brightly coloured, they would be loved instead of feared. Part of the Corvid family which includes magpies, ravens, jays and jackdaws they are arguably the most intelligent and fascinating of all birds. I have watched them fly off with a chicken’s egg, wash the salt off a chip in a puddle before eating it and mobbing a fox. Set aside an hour to watch this brilliant documentary which will make you view crows in a whole new light.
We don’t hear so much about acid rain these days, but it’s still there, scrubbing clean the tree trunks of moss and lichen, so a treat to see this.
Not one organism, but two, a fungus and an alga that can’t live without each other. The fungus provides the structure and the algae make the sugar. There are many different species of Lichen. It’s not feeding on the tree, but is affected by the acidity of the water running off the bark . You will find Lichen on brick and stone, glass, metal ,leather surfaces too.
Lichen is used to make Litmus paper. Dies are extracted and added to filter paper so that it turns red in acid conditions and blue in alkaline. Some lichens contain Usinic acid which is anti-inflammatory, anti-microbial and attacks cancer cells. Unfortunately, it also damages the liver.
Still some lingering seed heads from last year’s spectacular display in St George’s Gardens. Many seeds have a protective coating and won’t germinate until they have been exposed to frost. This keeps them fresh and hydrated ready to send out new roots into the warm moist spring soil.
Nature and caring people have made the lake as you see it today with reed beds. The very tall reed is Norfolk reed mace. The shorter reeds are Phragmites. We also have Yellow Flag Iris, Bulrush and Water Mint in places.
In 2016 we received 6 rolls of coir matting which were planted with various water plants. These you can see between the bridge and the bird sanctuary. So have fun finding out the rest of the names of the plants for yourselves.
Waterfowl or birds that live on the lake are Mute Swans, three different types of goose (Canada Goose, Greylag Goose and Egyptian Goose), Coots (black body, white beak and head dress), Moorhens (brown body, red beak with yellow tip), and Tufted Ducks (males – black and white and females – brown).
Sometimes there are Common Pochard (grey body with reddish head), a pair of Great Crested Grebes (on Burgess lake in July 2018) and also the Little Grebe.
There are many other birds that visit the water to feed – Kingfisher, Grey Heron, Cormorant, Common Tern and different types of Sea Gulls.
There is as much that lives underwater as above. The most common plant seen is Blanket Weed, next is Najas Minor which is growing in the non-fishing side of the lake, and some patches of Silk Weed out towards the middle of the lake. The lake bed is made up of areas of mud, rubble and rubbish that have been covered in silt. In the pockets of silt can be found Bloodworm (larvae of the non-biting Midge – the little flies you see over your head sometimes) Dragonflies, Damselflies and other types of water insect, too many to list.
Friends of Burgess Park will be pond-dipping by the lake on Saturday 21 July, 4.30 to 6pm as part of London’s National Park City Week. Come and join us.
There are many fish in the lake. Carp is the main species found, Tench is next, then Bream, Roach, Rudd, Perch, Dace and Catfish. Carp can be divided into sub species Common, Mirror, Linner, Fully scaled, Ghost and Koi.
When fishing at Burgess Park lake you must have a rod licence before you fish. You will need to purchase a day ticket from the council web site. The Environment Agency, Southwark Council officers and community wardens come around regularly to check on licences.
While fishing you will need to have a landing net 36 inches minimum and unhooking mat as there is a chance of a large carp or more. You must fish from the swims only. Swims 1 to 6 are concrete. There is a dirt area at the side to put up a shelter and they are on the school and toilet side of the lake. Swims 7 to 10 are on the other side of the lake and are dirt covered.
If you’re lucky and catch a fish then you must return all fish back to the water.
Unleash your wild side
Find out more about the wildlife in Burgess Park over the next few months.
Saturday 28 April Find out more about the bird spotting by the lake
All through June we doing #30DaysWild #wildaboutburgess part of the London Wildlife campaign. The perfect excuse to share your favourite photos @BurgessPk.
Saturday 21 July – 4.30 to 6pm Pond-dipping by the lake. Part of London’s National Park City Week.
In a corner of the English Garden you’ll find Daphne odora. As the name suggests, it has a gorgeous perfume.
Spot the frogs in the pond. There is some frogs spawn and probably more to come. Creep up slowly and you may hear them croaking. The tadpoles will emerge over the next 21 days. At first, they stick themselves to plants digesting the remaining egg yolk in their guts, then they swim about feeding on algae. As they grow, their diet expands to include other pond life and even plant material which they grind up with tiny teeth. By 12 weeks, they look like tiny frogs and at 16 weeks, they assume their adult shape and can leave the pond.
Between Chumleigh Gardens and St George’s Church
These are native trees that are usually found in boggy ground. Tap one of the yellow catkins and you will see a puff of pollen. These are wind pollinated plants that don’t need insects to fertilise them though you may see bees collecting the protein rich pollen to feed to their larva.
There are male and female flowers on the same tree. The female flowers are much smaller catkins which develop into cones. You will find brown cones from last year still on the trees. The leaves are round with a notch cut out at the tip and the bark has small holes in it.
Alder trees fix nitrogen into the soil, so add to the fertility.
Because they grow in boggy conditions, their orange coloured timber will not rot in water so it was used in the foundations of Venice and for water pipes. Above ground, it will quickly rot.
Siskin, Redpol and Goldfinches eat the seeds, several moths feed on the leaves and the bark is used in medicine.
The Dry Garden
Southwark Council have announced construction of the Burgess Park West project is due to begin in late October.
The plan shows what areas of the site Southwark Council intends to close and for how long.
Rust Square and the area next to it up to where the road Addington Square crosses the park will be closed for the duration of the project.
Trees earmarked for removal will be felled in Site A during the week beginning 5 February.
The rest of the site will have smaller sites set up within it while works are carried out and Southwark do not expect to close this area all at once.
New Church Road closure
Southwark Council will close the section on New Church Road that runs through the park. The road will no longer be accessible from Monday 4th December. Southwark apologises for any inconvenience caused. The new Quietway 7 cycle pathway which will cut through the park will be built as an alternative route. It is expected to open in spring 2018.
Consultations on the Burgess Park West new play area will take place on:
Tuesday 28 November 3.30 to 5pm Chumleigh Gardens play area, next to the Park Life café, off Albany Road. If the weather is poor the consultation will be inside the Chumleigh West building, which will be signposted from the play area.
Monday 4th December 6pm to 8pm Southwark Council’s offices 160 Tooley Street, SE1 2QH
Drop by to see the emerging design which has taken into account previous consultation results, and tell the designers your ideas and opinions.
If you cannot attend either session and are still interested in the play area design, please get in touch with Pippa Krishnan firstname.lastname@example.org
The story of Burgess Park in WW1
Listen to the fascinating podcast audio adaptation of the Animated Walk from the Friends’ Zeppelin 1917 season. It tells the story of the Zeppelin Raid on Camberwell, in the industrial and residential area that existed before the creation of the park itself, and puts the tragic events of that night into the context of local life at that time. Read about the Animated Walk.
Wednesday 17 October 2018 from 5.30-7pm
Sally Hogarth will unveil her new art work memorial ‘Silent Raid’. The installation was commissioned by Southwark Council and has been a year in the making. The art work commemorates the Zeppelin raid on Calmington Road (now part of Burgess Park) in 1917 with ten replica houses representing each of the people killed in the attack. Read Sally Hogarth’s blog about creating the sculptures on the Southwark Heritage website.
Meet at Theatre Delicatessen, in the Old Library on Wells Way, for a walk around the locations for the memorial, with speeches, refreshments, a poem by Koko and more. To book tickets for the launch event, please see the Eventbrite page.
The launch will be exactly 101 years after the attack and is part of the Zeppelin 1917 programme of events in Burgess Park about the First World War.
Saturday 20 October, 2-5:30pm
An afternoon of FREE events at Theatre Delicatessen, the Old Library on Wells Way.
- Come along to the open-to-all history walk telling the story of the “Silent Raid”.
- Find out more at the mini Zeppelin 1917 exhibition based on the centenary commemoration last year including Keith Roberts’ Zeppelin artwork.
- Listen to the fascinating podcast audio adaptation of the Animated Walk from the Friends’ Zeppelin 1917 season.
- Take part in the drop-in family art workshop by Art in the Park.
The Unknown Soldier is a moving show, often humorous, but above all thought provoking. It looks at the First World War from a new perspective, through the eyes of a man who has survived the carnage but who finds it hard to return home. A story of comradeship, betrayal and of promises both broken and kept following the carnage of World War One. Official EdFringe 2016 sell out show by award nominated writer of Casualties.
Supported by Southwark Council, the Friends of Burgess Park and Theatre Deli.
FOBP have just won the Mary Boast History Prize, organised by the Camberwell Society. Copies of our winning essay will be available at the events, and you can read more about the Prize here, or read the essay here.
2017 events: Revealing the impact of World War I on people’s lives and society
Almost one hundred years ago, on the night of 19th October 1917, a Zeppelin bomb landed in Calmington Road, Southwark. It killed 10 people, injured 24 more, and destroyed a fish and chip shop, a doctor’s surgery, and many homes. The Friends of Burgess Park project “Zeppelin 1917” will uncover the stories of local heroes and piece together the dramatic raid right over what is now Burgess Park.
Jon Pickup and Andrew Pearson, from Friends of Burgess Park are leading the project supported by a successful £9,800 Heritage Lottery Fund award. Jon Pickup said “We’re looking for people to volunteer, get involved and during the summer we’ll be visiting the Imperial War Museum and Southwark Heritage Library to look into archive material about the people who lived in the street. This is a fantastic opportunity to do some original research and uncover hidden stories. We’re also delighted that Southwark Council are funding an art piece for the park to remember this event.” Sally Hogarth has been appointed as the artist.
The project kicks off over the summer. Volunteers will find out more about the Zeppelin and the lives of ordinary people who took heroic action as part of the war effort. In September, children’s workshops led by Art in the Park will take place at the Creation Trust, Giraffe House.
During October 2017 a festival of events at Theatre Delicatessen, in the Old Library, Wells Way, will showcase the work created by local residents. John Whelan will bring together the historical research with volunteers to tell the story of the raid through an animated walk. Stephen Bourne, local historian, and author of Black Poppies, will talk about the armed services as well as men and women who stayed at home and played a role in the civil defence.
The Zeppelin 2017 festival will feature:
Exhibition – A timeline of the raid and archival display – open Saturdays during October 2017, with opening talk by Zeppelin expert Ian Castle on Saturday 7 October.
Hidden Heroes – Talk by Stephen Bourne, author of Black Poppies, on the black community and the Great War, Saturday 14 October 2017.
Animated Walk – Created by actors using research by local volunteers, to animate the history of WW1 and the Zeppelin Raid on Calmington Road in October 1917, on Saturday 21 October.
Family events – Drop-in family events including art workshops with Art in the Park, Cuming Museum object handling, stories and rhymes with Vanessa Wolf, Saturday 7 and Thursday 26 and Friday 27 October.
Zeppelin 1917 research and archive events
Thursday 11 January 2018, 4.00 -7.00pm
at Burgess Park Community Sports Centre, Cobourg Road, SE5 0JD
Southwark Council with match funding from Parklife Funding Partners (The FA, the Premier League and Sport England) are presenting draft design proposals for developing the community sports hub. Who will run the new facility? Will there be more fencing of sports’ fields? Will Cobourg Road and Neate Street be closed? What will the provision be for access to Cobourg School? Will there be through routes for pedestrians and cyclists? What about parking? Will trees be cut down? Please come along and say what you think about the new plans. Download a pdf of the latest plans. Email your comments to Southwark by 19 January 2018.
2016 plans for Cobourg Road and the Sports Centre development
Southwark Council are proposing a major redevelopment of the Community Sports Centre on Cobourg Road. Friends of Burgess Park are concerned that the plan will fence off more of the park, reduce accessibility, cut down mature trees, increase pedestrian/cyclist conflict and cause parking problems. Read the Friends of Burgess Park submission.
Have a look at the Southwark proposal for the Community Sports area and send your comments to email@example.com The closing date for the consultation is Sunday, 7 August 2016.